Russia plans to annex territory it controls in Ukraine, a U.S. official says.
Islam News – Russia is taking steps toward annexing parts of Ukraine it controls “in direct violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty,” a top U.S. national security official warned on Tuesday, including installing proxy officials expected to call “sham” votes on joining Russia and forcing residents to apply for Russian citizenship.
“Russia is beginning to roll out a version of what you could call an annexation playbook,” the official, John Kirby, said at a White House press briefing, drawing parallels to Russia’s seizure of Crimea eight years ago.
Mr. Kirby said that there was “ample evidence in the intelligence and in the public domain” of Russia’s unfolding efforts, which include installing the ruble as the national currency in the areas it intends to annex, just as it did in Crimea. Areas that may be in Russia’s annexation plan, he said, include Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, which make up the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.
In 2014, Russian forces invaded Crimea and Mr. Putin annexed it after newly installed officials hastily organized a referendum on secession that was reported to have secured the support of 97 percent of voters, drawing international accusations of fraud.
According to various sources, including the Defense Department, Russia is forcing some residents to apply for Russian passports. Last week, the U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, said that as part of the so-called filtration operations, Russian authorities had begun confiscating Ukrainian passports and issuing Russian passports.
A report from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe released last week also said that Russia was forcing Ukrainian citizens to accept Russian passports. Citing local media sources, the report said that “in the newly occupied territories, the occupants are compelling Ukrainians into getting a Russian passport by torturing or paying them.”
Mr. Kirby said that the pattern was particularly evident in Kherson, the first major Ukrainian city to fall, with the installation of Sergei Yeliseyev, a former Russian intelligence officer with “absolutely no connection to Ukraine.”
With the captured city under Mr. Yeliseyev’s control, Mr. Kirby said, “Russia is taking control of broadcasting towers, establishing loyalist security forces, replacing telecommunications infrastructure, forcing residents to apply for Russian citizenship and issuing Russian passports.”
On another topic of international concern, Mr. Kirby noted that there was no immediate evidence that Russia had purchased drones from Iran, which Moscow needs to replenish its fleet. He also said that the United States would announce its 16th package of weapons for Ukraine later this week.
Source: The New York Times